Child’s Disney World wish comes true at New York WishFest Saturday

Portia Robles who is getting her wish to go to Disney World in Florida is being held by her sister Megan after receiving gifts at Make-A-Wish Northeast New York’s WishFest fundraiser Saturday at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

AMSTERDAM — Four-year-old Portia Robles of Broadalbin loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Princess Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”— so Saturday was a big day for her.

Held on stage by her sister Megan at Shuttleworth Park, she got her wish granted to visit in Disney World in Florida through Wake-A-Wish Northeast New York.

After the announcement, her slight smile gradually turned into a big grin as she got everyone’s attention, received gifts, and her sister held her next to a banner proclaiming, “Portia, you’re Going to Disney.”

Jocelyn and Chris Arndt of Fort Plain and their band provided music for the event, and Jocelyn placed mouse ears on Portia’s head.

“It was amazing, overwhelming,” Portia’s mother, Jessica, said after the presentation.

Even though Portia is shy before large crowds, Make-A-Wish “made Portia and her family feel so comfortable,” she said. “Portia loves gifts.”

Portia’s family—her mother, father Javier, and four of her five siblings are going to Disney World with her in late September.

Portia is receiving treatment for leukemia.

Make-A-Wish’s COO, Robert Bullock said, “We’re really feeling the love of Fulton and Montgomery counties.”

Eight children in the counties have gotten their wishes granted over the past year, he said.

Ray Gawlak, who helped arrange Portia’s trip, was in tears at times as he emceed the event in the bandshell.

He introduced everyone who appeared on stage, including Bella Romano, a Miss Montgomery County princess, who raided her piggybank and gave $100 to Make-A-Wish,

He introduced city Mayor Michael Villa and state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

Villa called the program “another great event in Amsterdam.”

“The dedicated volunteers are the ones who make it all happen,” said Santabarbara, who came with his autistic son, Michael.

He said one act of kindness can have a great effect.

Presideo, an information technology company with an office in Albany and the main sponsor of the event, presented a $5,000 check to Bullock for Make-A-Wish.

Wish Kids Bella Caruso and Lexi Gurka led other Wish Kids in the song “Old Town Road.”

Patrick Russo, the 1st Ward alderman, was at the event and after the program talked about his own experience as a Wish Kid in 1995.

“Being a Wish Kid is not a death sentence,” he said. “I’m here. I survived.”

A survivor of leukemia, Russo recalled getting a break from weekly chemotherapy at Albany Medical Center when he went to Disney— “a week not being in the hospital.”

He said his family got a limousine ride to the airport and they got a two-bedroom villa at Disney, free meals and “ice cream all day long,” and a chance to get ahead in line.

Russo volunteered for the dunk tank at Saturday’s event and thinks he raised $350 to $400 for Make-A-Wish.

Besides being a venue for granting Portia her wish, the day’s WishFest was a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Northeast New York, which serves 15 counties and grants 90 to 100 wishes a year, according to its news release.

By Josh Bovee

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